Day 15: Legend

Art by Rhett Backstrom | Twitter | Instagram

I am Eunoia. I deserve to be here.

My whole life, the world offered me nothing and I worked with what I had to climb to the top. I am their general – their stratigos– and those who have reservations about this are welcome to challenge me face to face.

It isn’t a matter of man versus woman, but, rather, class versus lack thereof. I am a nobody. I shouldn’t be here, yet, here I am and I will not stand down.

In the chance that the gods exist, they stand behind me. I feel different when I have armor on and a spear in my hands. Unstoppable and strong. I am the woman that I needed to see as a child.

Today is the day that I will be tested. My skill will be all I can rely on. The snakes in the grass will have no choice but to show themselves or stand by me. I leave the house that I could never have dreamed of living in as a little girl. I hold my helmet in my arm as I make what could be my final walk to the ship I will take to the battle.

Near the dock, I see Protogenes, one of my soldiers. Despite that fact, he tells me, “Prepare for death. Hades is waiting for you.” The snake in the grass. His doubt fuels me. Just as the doubt of so many others who are supposed to call me their general. However, most who doubt me are too afraid to say it to me. They do as I say. He is a great soldier. Unfortunately, he knows I need him.

Before I place my helmet over my head, I take one last look at the island I have called home for most of my life. I have protected it just as I have betrayed it. I worked for people just as I climbed higher in society and they started to work for me. I drop my good luck coin in the water between the dock and the shore into the water. I will only need to rely on myself today. My helmet is now on my head. I suddenly feel ready. A switch has flipped.

We make it to a battle already started. There is blood in the water and bodies from both sides litter the shore. This is a sight I am used to. Regular foot soldiers were supposed to do most of the work, but there is a huge amount of casualties. It’s seems as if we’re losing. That’s why I have to make an appearance now with some of my best soldiers.

I pick up my spear and shield and feel suddenly more confident. It’s my turn. I jump onto shore and start immediately. Bodies fall into my sharpened spear as if there is a magnet inside of them. Blood has already sprayed into my mouth and blurred my vision. The smell would be nauseating if it weren’t for the pure adrenaline flowing through my body and giving super-human strength.

I see Protogenes knocked onto his knees and a soldier from the opposing side rushing him with a sword, picking out the weak points in his armor – I’m sure. I ought to let him get slaughtered like cattle, but he can do more for me alive. The person charging him gets my knee to his back and once they are on the ground, I kick off their helmet and stab my spear through the side of their head, the pop of their skull is dizzying, but the beast under the surface of my skin ignores it and sees these people as barely human. This is something I will have to feel later. Not now.

Protogenes’ eyes meet mine. They seem almost thankful and shock from that alone almost knocks me out of battle.

The fighting lasts for hours. It will go down as one of the longest battles in history. Fires have been lit for those of us left to see the carnage and death around us. There are less of us left than them, but what is left of the soldiers who are mine are of much higher quality.

I have strategy down to a science. These are my men to use and, despite their qualms with me, I know we fight for the same cause. We have a plan and will carry it out. The occasional clanking of metal and moans of pain are about to escalate once again.

To my left, one of my captains is supposed to go north, but he hasn’t moved an inch. I push his back hard as if to remind him of what we’ve planned. I start to walk away and then…

I feel a sword go through my back and pierce my lungs with a loud pop.

I can only gasp and fall to my knees. I have been betrayed. He was a spy all along. Another snake in the grass. I let my guard down. This is my fault. I failed. Just as they said I would. I trusted— this is the fate I deserve. Protogenes was right after all.

Darkness.

I feel lips leave mine and I start to cough. I jump up and tears flow from my eyes. I have to finish this. Have to. I reel my arm back with my spear ready to attack.

All I see in front of me is a woman in a white dress. She has leaves in her hair. Psychopompós. A soul guide. She is here to lead me to the afterlife. She gave me the kiss of death. I’m not ready. This is not what I wanted.

I thought I did well. Rather, I did better than anyone could have expected from someone like me.

I fall to my knees just as I did when I was betrayed and killed. I put my hand over my face and I flex my stomach to try and hold in a wail threatening to escape my mouth. My eyes squeeze shut and I don’t allow anymore tears to escape.

I feel the soul guide put her hand on my shoulder. I don’t want comfort, but I don’t stop her. I have denied myself of comfort for so long and it feels nice.

“Do not be disappointed,” she says. “Be proud of what you have done.”

“I failed,” I say. My voice is quieter than I’ve ever heard it.

“No,” she responds.

The blackness around us melts into me seeing my soldiers win the war that killed me. They hurdled over all odds and brought peace to Greece as I knew it.

I see Protogenes survive the war and become a writer. His writing is about… me? He tells my story. Portrays me as a hero. Stays alone his whole life, gets old, and dies still asking future generations to remember who I am.

Statues are erected of me. The stories of me get translated and the whole world that comes after me learns about me in their schools. There are costumes of me, daughters named after me, and art inspired by me.

The soul guide takes me to a museum with a statue of me holding the spear that came with me even in death. The statue shows me holding the spear confidently and smiling. I like being remembered like this. No one has ever cared about me.

A little girl who exists generations after me stands at the base of my statue and stares up with so much admiration.

“I want to be just like Eunoia,” the little girl says. She poses like me.

I fall to the floor and cry. I cry harder than I ever did in life. The sobs come from so deep inside of me.

All I ever wanted to do was make one person proud.

The soul guide reads my mind and says, “You have made generations proud until humanity ceases to exist. You are more than just a legend.” She kneels on the floor and wraps her arms around me. I imagine this is what it feels like to be hugged by a mother.

I settle into the light.

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